Don’t blame Aki for Zebo’s absence
Today marks a defining day in the process which will result in Ireland, France or South Africa hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup and is, therefore, potentially one of the most significant in the history of Irish rugby.
At 10am, the Rugby World Cup board will release the RWC 2023 Bid Evaluation Report to the three host candidates and the World Rugby Council. Akin to their French and South African counterparts, the Irish team will have an hour to digest the report before, at 11am, the recommendation will be made known publicly through a release to the media.
The evaluation has been carried out by a team of internal and external functional area experts, over a range of weighted criteria, and the host candidate which achieves the highest score will be recommended by the Rugby World Cup Board as the RWC 2023 host.
While all three bids are likely to score positively, if there is a clear overall winner, then most likely the World Rugby Council will rubberstamp this recommendation when it makes a final decision in London on November 15th. Independent consultant The Sports Consultancy has scrutinised every aspect of the evaluation, so it will be surprising if there is not a clear recommendation. That said if two or more bids are scored closely, then the canvassing for votes in the World Rugby Council will intensify over the next fortnight and become more relevant.
The World Rugby Council will convene at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington on November 15th, when a simple majority of 20 votes out of the overall total of 39 will be required in order to win the right to host the 2023 World Cup.
There were also three rival bids for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, namely Italy, Japan and South Africa. When World Rugby, then the International Rugby Board (IRB), met in Dublin on July 28th 2009, they voted 16-10 in favour of approving the recommendation from Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL) that England and Japan should be named hosts in turn.
Today’s completed evaluation, which is expected to run to a couple of hundred pages, will also be made available publicly on the World Rugby website. But although the process is notably transparent, especially by comparison to its football and Olympic counterparts, the recommendation has been kept under a veil of secrecy, with no inkling as to how it may turn out.
There are seven categories under which each host candidature has been assessed.
The first of these is: ‘Venues and infrastructure commensurate with a top-tier major event.’ This is effectively stadia capacity sizes dependent on the needs of given matches. Certainly France and South Africa have the bigger stadia but there would be legitimate doubts as to the latter’s ability to fill them.
The second category is: ‘Comprehensive and enforceable public and private sector
guarantees’. Given the two Governments’ commitments, the Irish bid should score well here.
The third is: ‘A commercially successful event with a fully funded, robust financial model.’ The French are promising the most financially profitable World Cup, although Ireland’s bid appears to be the most securely guaranteed.
The fourth is: ‘Operational excellence through an integrated and experienced delivery team.’ Certainly the French have the proven experience, albeit they hosted it in 2007 and are hosting the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The fifth is: ‘A vision that engages and inspires domestic and international audiences and contributes to the growth of rugby at all levels.’ If Ireland don’t win this category it would be a surprise, not least given their reach into North America.
The sixth is: ‘An enabling environment of political and financial stability that respects the diversity of Rugby World Cup’s global stakeholders.’ This equates to stable and trustworthy governments, and Ireland and France should score better than South Africa.
The seventh is: ‘An environment and climate suited to top-level sport in a geography that allows maximum fan mobility.’ Ireland’s compactness should be another positive although France has proven transport networks, with security an issue in this category.
Those involved in the Irish bid are confident they’ve done everything they possibly can, they also know they face stiff competition. The Irish Government have underwritten the tournament fee to World Rugby of ¤127 million, and the stakes are huge. A World Cup in Ireland would have a direct economic impact of ¤800 million, which the IRFU chief executive Philip Browne has said is a “conservative estimate,” while the projected 445,000 visitors would constitute the largest number of visiting fans for a World Cup heretofore.
Today is not quite D-Day, but it could ultimately amount to the same thing, and it is certainly the most important day in the whole process to date. Whoever wins the recommendation will certainly be desperately disappointed if they don’t then seal the right to host the 2023 World Cup. It would, as Brian O’Driscoll stated after last month’s bid presentations, be the single biggest sports event Ireland could ever host.
The Irish bid team will have an hour to digest the report before, at 11am, the recommendation will be made known publicly.